Top Trails: Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park

Riley overlooks Acadia's beauty from the Precipice Trail
Overlooking Acadia from the Precipice Trail

The Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park is one of the most challenging trails I’ve ever done. From my experience, such difficult trails also yield the greatest rewards. Precipice Trail is no exception. Read on to learn about my favorite trail in Maine as part of my Top Trails series.

Trail Description

Length: 2.5 miles round-trip
Time: Allow 3-4 hours
Start/end: Precipice Trail parking area (~3 miles into Acadia National Park from the Hull Cove entrance)
Parking: There is a Precipice Trail parking area, however, it can fill up quickly. I recommend parking at the visitor center and taking one of the free buses to the trailhead.
Disclaimers: This trail is not for the faint-hearted. If you’re terrified of heights or steep cliffs and drop-offs, it is not for you. If, like me, you are a bit wary of heights but can handle such exposure, go for it. In the case of rain or wet conditions, save this hike for a different day as the granite will be extremely slippery and dangerous.
Ascending: You’ll reach the top by climbing up massive granite boulders with iron rungs and ladders installed. 
: Due to the strenuous nature of the trail, it is not advisable to descend the same way. Many people (myself included) take the Champlain North Ridge Trail to return to the parking area.

Hiking Precipice Trail

Riley climbs up a granite mountainside using iron rungs

Using iron rungs to climb up the side of extremely steep cliffsHave I scared you? No? Good. The Precipice Trail is worth every minute of unavoidable anxiety and thrill.

To begin, you’ll start climbing on the iron rungs pretty much immediately. I don’t consider myself to be the strongest, and particularly believe I have very poor arm strength. However, I was completely fine on this trail. I was very nervous about it, due to both my lack of muscle and fear of heights, but I got over this really quickly when the amazing scenery came into view. I really started to enjoy the challenge of using the rungs to climb, and peeking around each new boulder to see what new views I could take in.

A maze of iron rungs on the side of Champlain Mountain
A maze of iron rungs on the side of Champlain Mountain

To tell you the truth, looking up at all of the rungs is really daunting. It seems impossible to accomplish from way down where you are but is actually easier than it looks. Sometimes you’re using them like a ladder, sometimes you’re using them to pull yourself up, other times they’re your stepping stones. No matter what, they are your lifelines, so hold on tight!

As we climbed, my level of anxiety continued to fall. Honestly, I became more and more fearless the further up we were, posing for photos on dangerous cliff edges without a fear of falling. Then we reached the top, and the views were incredible. You’re treated to a 360-degree panorama of trees, mountains, and the sea.

A panoramic view of the mountains, trees, and ocean from the top of the Precipice Trail
The view from the top of the Precipice Trail

After hiking, we stayed up on Champlain Mountain for a while before making the steep descent. We wanted to take in the grand view we had worked so hard to earn. Plus, it’s an excellent spot for lunch. Then we took the most popular route down, Champlain North Ridge Trail. Most of the trail is made up of stones placed to act as stairs, so you’re all done with the iron rungs. But at this point, you’ll probably miss them.

More Photos from the Precipice Trail